Imagine for a moment that out of a desire to belong (the strongest of teenage drives) your kid joins a gang – one that proudly wears its "colors" openly around the school with impunity. Only this gang has an unusual initiation oath:

"…I will always conduct myself to bring credit to my family, country, school, and(name of gang). I am loyal and patriotic. I am the future of the United States of America. I do not lie, cheat or steal and will always be accountable for my actions and deeds. I will always practice good citizenship and patriotism. I will work hard to improve my mind and strengthen my body. I will seek the mantle of leadership and stand prepared to uphold the Constitution and the American way of life. May God grant me the strength to always live by this creed."

This is no fantasy, and can become a reality in every high school in the country if we demand it, for that oath begins with "I am a Junior ROTC Cadet."
Chances are that on the first day of a JROTC class a retired officer (assisted by a retired NCO) will say something along these lines: "Play it straight with me and you can come to me with any problem; in school, at home, doesn’t matter. We’ll work it out together." The textbooks are a far cry from the revisionist, collectivist, politically correct vomitus too often found in schoolbooks. The following are actual chapters from the Army version: Becoming a Model American Citizen: Making the Right Choices; Winning Colors: Excellence is Not an Accident; Working Out Conflicts: You can be a Leader; The Constitution; and We Are Americans. Among the topics covered are the rights, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship; career opportunities (civilian and military); goal setting; consumer and budgeting skills; communication; learning styles; self-knowledge; fitness; first aid and health; map reading; Constitutional law; allegiance; and respect for duly constituted authority. No single high school class could get anywhere near as far towards preparing young people for a productive, satisfying adult life.
Why would the kid want to join? Because it’s FUN. There’s role-playing a plenty of sports and games. Your kid not the athletic type? No worries. While there is competition, the main emphasis is on cooperation and teamwork. Attitude counts more than prowess. There’s rifle team, drill team, color guard and Raiders (cadet challenge). This last was our kids’ favorite. It is a competition in calisthenics, obstacle course, land navigation, rope bridge (building and crossing) and first aid. A combination of the best leaders and the best followers usually carries the day.
If JROTC really gets into a kid’s blood, there is summer camp. Here they live "the life:" Reveille, mess hall, taps, and a full day in between. There’s marksmanship, tower rappelling, obstacle courses, science classes, and "Leadership Reaction Training." LRT is even fun to watch. A scenario is given – for example, there are two dirt ramps with a gap representing a raging flood. There are various boards and a hundred pound barrel. The team, with a leader they preselected, has 15 minutes to get the barrel, the boards and themselves across. Naturally the boards are too short. Utilizing the unique characteristics of each team member is counted in their favor.
We had two daughters and a son go through JROTC. Only the oldest daughter went on to a military career (JROTC + valedictorian = West Point) but our son’s and our younger daughter’s lives were deeply enriched by the program. I promise you this: When you hear "HOOAHH!"(Army), HOOYAHH! (Navy) or "OORAHHH!" (Marine Corps) echo across a parade ground with your son or daughter out there, you”ll be proud, perhaps to the point of tears, and your faith in the future restored.
(Note: The above was adapted from a column I wrote for the Tampa Tribune many years ago.)

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